Feb 27

All Eyes On Harvey Today

The longest journey begins with a single step and Matt Harvey will take another one today when he throws to hitters for the first time this spring. The toast of New York two years ago when he captured the town’s imagination with his blazing fastball and grit, will again have all eyes on him.

HARVEY: All eyes on him this morning. (AP)

HARVEY: All eyes on him this morning. (AP)

Harvey last pitched, Aug. 24, 2013, when he left in pain with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. Two months later, after much deliberation and against his initial hopes, he underwent elbow surgery.

Harvey’s rehab has included long-tossing, throwing off the mound – including to non-swinging hitters. Today, non-swinging batters will look back at him. However, as it was with Bobby Parnell on Thursday, the batters will just track pitches to give Harvey a feel for what it’s like.

Harvey told reporters: “How these things usually go is guys will stand in and kind of watch, monitor and track pitches – which guys did last year. I think once they start really getting the counts and have somebody behind there [umpiring], I think that’s when [the significance] will start.’’

Well, that’s totally not true, as it will be highly significant if Harvey walks off the mound this morning without any pain. The book on Harvey is he pushes the envelope and the last thing the Mets want is for him to push it beyond what is scheduled. He doesn’t need to prove he can still throw hard or drop off a 12-to-6 curveball.

Just get in, get out, get iced, answer the questions you’ve anticipated for nearly 18 months and prepare for your March 6 exhibition start against Detroit.

ON DECK:  What went on with Lucas Duda?

 

Feb 26

Exhibition Rotation Announced

You can’t read anything, such as who will be the Opening Day starter, into manager Terry Collins’ announcement this afternoon about his spring training rotation:

Wednesday, March 4, at Atlanta: Dillon Gee with no mention of who will follow him.

Thursday, March 5, at Washington: Bartolo Colon with Gabriel Ynoa in relief.

Friday, March 6, Detroit at Port St. Lucie: Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. The game will be televised by SNY.

Saturday, March 7, Atlanta at Port St. Lucie: Jacob deGrom with Matt Bowman in relief. This is a split squad game, with Steven Matz and Rafael Montero working against Miami.

There is no mention when Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler pitch.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notebook.

Feb 25

Mets Matters: Syndergaard Motivated

I really like what Noah Syndergaard told reporters in Port St. Lucie about his reaction to not being called up at the end of last season.

Realistically, it wasn’t going to happen as to protect his Super Two status.

mets-matters logoAfter getting the call from GM Sandy Alderson, Syndergaard refused to sulk, but instead used it a source of motivation.

“It was kind of heartbreaking,” Syndergaard told ESPN. “I went home, let things relax a little bit, and then got back in my workout program and just enjoyed time in the offseason.

“But it was disappointing. To be in the big leagues has been my dream ever since I was a little kid. … I use it as a little extra motivation, because I don’t want to hear that phone call again.’’

Syndergaard is expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas and join the Mets in June.

Syndergaard, 22, needs to develop a secondary pitch because scouts say he relies too much on his outstanding fastball. Normally, pitchers move up to the next level when they begin dominating the competition, something he did not do evidenced by his 2014 Vegas numbers: 9-7, 4.60 ERA and 1.481 WHIP in 26 starts.

By his own admission, Syndergaard said he wasn’t ready.

“Being in Triple-A, you’ve got guys who have been in the big leagues for a number of seasons. So they can hit a fastball,’’ Syndergaard said. “Hitting is timing, and pitching is throwing off timing. If you throw three fastballs on the heart of the plate, they’re going to time one up.’’

Nobody knows how good Syndergaard will be, but he has the right idea.

HARVEY TO THROW FRIDAY: Matt Harvey’s come back from Tommy John surgery will take another step Friday when he throws to hitters for the first time.

The plan is to take batting practice, but there’s even the chance the hitters won’t even swing, but to stand at the plate to re-acclimate him to having a batter in the box.

DUDA UPDATE: Lucas Duda’s side injury has been changed from a strained oblique to a intercostal muscle. He’s not expected to resume swinging until Friday.

ON DECK TOMORROW: Among other things, I’ll project the Mets’ Opening Day roster.

Feb 25

Too Early To Name Opening Day Starter

Mike Puma of The New York Post recently wrote the Mets are strongly considering going with Zack Wheeler as their Opening Day starter. While I like Puma and don’t dispute his sources, naming Wheeler, or anybody else for that matter, as the Opening Day starter now is premature and a bad idea.

Of course the media wants to know. I want to know, but considering the make-up of the Mets’ rotation it serves no purpose announcing a starter this early.

WHEELER: No reason to name his Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

WHEELER: No reason to name him Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

The Mets already said it will not be Matt Harvey, but what if that changes? It already changed from him being the home opener starter to working in of the first five games.

With six weeks remaining until Opening Day and the Mets lacking a legitimate ace such as Johan Santana or even a healthy Harvey, simply too much can happen that could change Terry Collins’ mind:

* What if Harvey has a great spring training? Surely he then would get the nod.

* What if Wheeler has a lousy spring training, or worse, is injured?

* What if one of the other starters emerges strong this spring. What then?

The Opening Day starter should be based on two things: 1) experience, and 2) merit. Wheeler, despite showing promise last year and is a cornerstone of the future, doesn’t meet either.

If he’s healthy, it should be Harvey because of his brief window of success and what he means to the franchise. If not, the best choice should be Bartolo Colon.

It is highly improbable he won’t be traded this spring, so it has to be him. He’s best equipped to handle the distractions and pressure, and last year was the Mets’ most accomplished starter winning 15 games and working over 200 innings.

Wheeler is the sexy pick, but for the best results, it should go with Colon.

But, even so, the same rules apply. It is too early and every manager should know not to make a decision until absolutely has to … and Collins has not need to make an announcement now.

ON DECK TODAY: Mets’ Matters: Today’s notebook.

Feb 23

Here’s A Thought Why Mets Won’t Announce Set Plan For Harvey

Unquestionably, the primary focus for the Mets this spring training will be on Matt Harvey. GM Sandy Alderson said there would not be severe restrictions on Harvey, who remains on schedule and is to throw to hitters by the end of the week.

That’s encouraging, but what is puzzling is wondering if the Mets even have a concrete plan for Harvey’s first year following Tommy John surgery. There’s supposed to be an innings cap, but so far there’s no announced number, with Alderson saying he didn’t want this to become an issue over the next eight months.

HARVEY: Why won't they announce plan? (Getty)

HARVEY: Why won’t they announce plan? (Getty)

Memo to Alderson: Announced number or not, Harvey’s workload will always be an issue. Not knowing drives the media crazy and encourages it to bombard Alderson, Harvey and Terry Collins with the same questions before and after every start.

How can Alderson be that naïve about the New York press to think the issue will go away, especially as the season wears down and there is a prospect of a postseason?

First, it was thought Harvey would not pitch in the six games the Mets have on the road to open the season, but start the home opener. Now, Collins says he’ll start in the season’s first five games. How much do you want to bet he starts Opening Day and the home opener?

Alderson says the Mets have “an idea,’’ of Harvey’s limit, but not a definitive number. Harvey threw out 200, but not 215 or 220.

Alderson said Harvey will start in the postseason, but what does that mean toward the innings total?

Let’s assume the Mets get in as a wild card and run the table. That’s a potential six or seven starts; that’s at least another 40 innings. And, if they are in a race there’s no way they’ll cut him short in a game.

How does that compute? Do the Mets think 170 innings and keep adding on until their season is done? Don’t think for a second if the Mets reach the playoffs they would consider limiting him.

But, all innings count.

The ideal way is to map out a schedule that utilizes skipping one start a month, which is a possible savings of 42 innings, figuring seven innings is the magic number for a start. This can easily be done when scheduled off days are considered. And, it would not impact the rest of the rotation.

Then, Collins can pull Harvey depending on how he’s pitching that day and the tenor of the game. Those are bonus saved innings. I would hope on days Harvey doesn’t have it he’ll have a short leash.

That seems the easiest way, but the Mets won’t commit to this format. Instead, they floated the idea of sometimes earmarking a start for five innings. That’s a terrible idea because what if Harvey is throwing a gem? What if they pull him and the bullpen gives it up? That’s a backlash Collins doesn’t want to face.

This way also puts undue pressure on the team if they think they’ll have Harvey for five innings. A team must go into a game believing the starter will be with them. Plus, you would be putting the bullpen in the situation of working four innings that night. But, what if they were overused in an extra-innings game the night before? What if the next game’s starter is shelled? All of a sudden the bullpen is taxed.

The Mets’ reluctance to carve out a concrete plan for Harvey this year has nothing to do with trying to alleviate a distraction. At least not the one they think.

I believe their caution is they don’t want to risk of aggravating or annoying their temperamental pitcher, who has already in his young career has shown a willingness, if not eagerness, to spar with management.

They don’t want Harvey to become angry and create a different distraction. What they don’t understand it is better to face this now rather than have this become a lingering issue.

And, you know it will.